Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to talk to this bill today. I am also pleased to see that the Liberal member from Edmonton is with us today because he certainly will understand what I am about to say. I hope he can relate it to some of his colleagues in his caucus.
I also hope the heckler will stick around and listen to a specific story which is true and based on facts. It happened in my riding to a close friend of mine, a rancher who lives right outside the town I live in. I have an account of the events that took place in the life of this rancher, well written by an eyewitness to it. The fellow's name is Mr. Dave Morgan and he has given me permission to illustrate why this bill needs to be repaired and fixed properly.
Mr. Morgan is likewise a person who has lived in the area for many years. His family homesteaded the property on which he now lives over 100 years ago. They have dealt with animals all their lives and are truly respectful of animals. They like the idea of making certain that we have laws in place which prevent the absolutely unnecessary cruelty to animals that we know happens so often, something with which this party agrees.
I will just read the account of this story and hope that people on that side of the House can understand what we are saying because this is only one sample of hundreds across the board.
A well known rancher...75 years old...raising cattle all his life...ranching and farming on the land his father settled over 100 years ago... was charged by the SPCA with keeping a cow in distress. I know this rancher, I know his set-up as do many cattlemen and businessmen from far and wide not to mention his immediate neighbours. I saw the cow in question on the day she left the ranch, on October 25, 1999. She was a nice looking older cow with a slightly swollen eye, with calf by her side of approximately 550 lbs.This cow was culled from the herd and was not in any sort of distress at the time she left the ranch. She was taken, with three other cows, to auction and sold the next day weighing 1135 lbs. after a 24-hour stand to one of two buyers bidding on her...
In December 1999, two SPCA officers phoned to ask if they could pay a visit to the rancher. Which they did and impressed by the fine operation and cow herd. Shortly thereafter, even after seeing the Rancher's successful cattle ranch, a subpoena was presented. The Canadian justice system then became engaged!!!
And away went the system doing what it does best--wasting thousands of tax-payers dollars, and at the same time making ridicule of a prominent Alberta rancher through unsubstantiated allegations. This procedure took from December 14, 1999 when the SPCA laid charges, until February 8, 2001, when a two-day trial was finally scheduled. (In the meantime there had been two date changes for this trial).
On this day, the rancher & his wife, with his counsel, the judge, the Clerk of the Court, the Crown Prosecutor, 3 or 4 SPCA vehicles, complete with constables, plus, it was said, a pathologist, flown in from Saskatchewan especially for the two-day court case, all appeared at the trial to be held in Didsbury [Alberta]. It was a special court day in Didsbury and no other cases were on the agenda. All this expense for the 10 minutes it took for the Crown Prosecutor to ask for the charge to be withdrawn due to the fact that they did not have the evidence to prove the case.
The entire situation was a fiasco from the beginning. The Rancher's Counsel saw clearly there was no evidence to substantiate the allegations and by letter in June 2000 asked the Crown Prosecutor to drop the charge. Then came the “plea bargain” attempt by the Crown Prosecutor. If the rancher would plea guilty out of court, the prosecutor would lessen the fine...Later, days before February 8, the Crown Prosecutor offered another goodie...If the rancher wrote to two beef publications regarding the identification of cancer eye, and how to cull these animals, the charge would be dropped. Would you, the reader, not understand these two offers as the prosecutor saying, “I [think I messed] up and I need you to make me look good, so kiss my hind end and I'll drop the charge”. The Rancher said, “See you in Court”. And so he did for 10 minutes they did on February 8, 2001.
How much did it cost taxpayers to hold this trial???? Just a wild guess would probably be an underestimation. The whole case was a joke. What isn't a joke is the manner in which subsidized governmental departments handle matters without respect of citizens at the Taxpayers expense...One might say there was even double dipping here as I read in the Canadian Cattlemen Magazine (Jan. 2001)...Alberta SPCA inspectors go too far...that the SPCA received a grant of more than $800,000.
There already have been cases where producers have plead guilty to similar charges and paid the fine only because it was much cheaper and a whole lot less fuss...
--The Crown Prosecutor failed to make a case. The Rancher has no recourse in the retrieving any of the several thousand dollars in legal fees he incurred. Furthermore, this ranch family was not even offered a simple apology by the Crown nor the SPCA for causing them unnecessary frustration.
Ladies and gentlemen...I ask you...who was in distress...the cow or the Rancher doing what he has always done to build a distinctive herd of cattle...and maintaining their integrity.
That story sums up what has to be done with the bill. There are hundreds and thousands of people who are in an industry who love animals. That is probably one of the main reasons why they are in the industry, as I am sure my colleague would agree, because they love animals. They know what they are doing. They know how to take care of them. Yes, they will run across problems. That is why they bring in veterinarians, spend thousands of dollars looking after herds and do all the right things. However under this kind of law they are guaranteed nothing in the way of protection for doing what is normal, ordinary, every day livestock enterprising. We cannot allow that.
Yes, we want to stop cruelty to animals. Yes, we want to protect all wildlife the best way we can. We want to continue doing the things we do with regard to their safety. We want to increase fines and prosecutions for those idiots out there who have no regard for the animal as living item.
However the bill does not protect the ranchers. What it will do is let the minister stand up and repeatedly say “that will never happen”. He has done that before. If that is the case, then put it in the bill so it never does happen, because it has happened in the past. The bill would not prevent it from happening again.
If the member across the way cannot sit for a second and use his brain to think and ensure that the bill makes absolutely certain that the privileges of the good, hard working citizens, taxpayers of this land who thrive on providing an industry from which we benefit, who enter this enterprise are not abused, then we will have made a dreadful mistake.
I hope my friend from Edmonton, Alberta, the member from that party, recognizes what I am saying is true. He knows what ranching is all about in that neck of the woods, and I know he does.
The bill would ensure that this would happen under the present criminal code. Good grief, think what would happen if this bill replaced that criminal code section, which pulls animals out of a certain area. I do not know what the member is using, but it is not his head. I hope he will give it a shake and wake up.